NBA Playoff Games and WNBA Games Postponed After Players Boycott in Wake of Blake Shooting

August 26, 2020
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The NBA made the unprecedented move to postpone several postseason games after players decided not to play to protest the police shooting of an unarmed black man in Wisconsin.

The Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic were not on the floor for their scheduled playoff game on Wednesday, in a reported boycott in response to the Sunday shooting of Jacob Blake by police officers in Kenosha.

The Bucks, who play approximately 40 miles from Kenosha, where Blake was shot in the back at point-blank range by police officers in view of his children on Sunday, decided to boycott the game, according to Adrian Wojnarowksi of ESPN.

Per Wojnarowski, the Bucks remained inside the locker room and were eventually put on a conference call with Attorney General Josh Paul and Lieutenant Governoer Mandela Barnes.

Hours later, the Bucks stood outside the locker as a team and read a statement.

"Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action. So, our focus today cannot be on basketball," Bucks forward Sterling Brown said.

Amid the confusion in the ensuing moments, reports surfaced that players would also boycott Wednesday's Houston Rockets-Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers-Portland Trail Blazers.

About an hour later, the NBA announced the postponement of all of the day's games. The games would be rescheduled, a league statement said.

What happens next is unknown.

According to Wojnarowski, the wave of players deciding to boycott caught owners and front offices around the NBA off guard, and that the players are planning to meet at 8 p.m. Wednesday at their hotel inside the bubble to discuss the boycott and the next steps.

One veteran player told Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix that the season is in jeopardy.

The Celtics and Raptors were also reported to be considering a boycott or protest of the first game of their upcoming series, scheduled for Thursday and according to Mannix, there is a strong belief that all of Thursday's scheduled games will be postponed.

Bucks owner Alex Lasry expressed his support for his team soon after the game was called off.

"Enough is enough," Lasry said. "Change needs to happen."

The surreal scene at the Bucks-Magic game unfolded on television broadcasts, where Game 5 of the best-of-seven series was set to air to national audiences. Instead, viewers saw an entirely empty court, while NBA TV announcers initially appeared uncertain whether the players would eventually emerge from their locker rooms.

After the NBA postponed its games, the WNBA followed its lead and also cancelled all games as players discussed their options.

The Washington Mystics arrived to their game with white T-shirts that spelled out "Jacob Blake" and each shirt had seven holes cut out in the back to signify the amount of times he was shot in the back by officers.

Several prominent athletes were among the first to speak out about the Blake shooting late Sunday and early on Monday. Milwaukee guard George Hill and Utah Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell turned heads for the especially strong responses in which they hinted at possible boycotts.

Hill suggested the NBA restart was a mistake, when he was asked what more players can do to help achieve justice for victims of police violence and systemic racism.

His frustration echoes the sentiment of many other players who say their calls for social justice have been amplified without any meaningful steps to achieve reform.

The outcry has cut across all professional sports leagues. On Tuesday, Detroit Lions players called off practice to discuss the matter with reporters. Milwaukee Brewers star reliever Josh Hader suggested the team also had a protest or boycott planned.